Crews to begin hunt for leak near sunken barge in Lake Erie

25 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Crews to begin hunt for leak near sunken barge in Lake Erie.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Underwater contractors are being sent to Lake Erie to search for the source of what appears to be a petroleum leak coming from a century-old sunken barge recently found in the water near the U.S. Divers plan to explore the wreckage on Monday to see if they can find and seal the leak, which appears to involve a colorless, petroleum-based solvent that evaporates quickly once it reaches the surface, said Coast Guard Lt.

Coast Guard said it is investigating a small leak spotted near the wreckage just in the last few days, although it’s not clear whether it’s an ongoing leak or what kind of substance might be coming from the barge. It would be a significant discovery if the vessel turns out to be the Argo, one of 87 shipwrecks on the federal registry created two years ago to identify the most serious pollution threats to U.S. waters. The Coast Guard is warning boaters to stay away from the area, which is about two miles south of the Canadian border, because it could be dangerous to breathe in the fumes from the solvent. Early this decade, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration listed it among 89 shipwrecks believed to pose a significant environmental threat to United States waters due to their cargoes or fueling systems. Kowalczk said, adding that there had been occasional reports over the years of boaters smelling a similar odor in that area, but nothing was ever documented or confirmed.

Shipwreck hunter Tom Kowalczk, who lives along the lake, discovered the barge in late August while he was searching for a wooden schooner that sunk in 1845. While the barge’s identity hasn’t been confirmed, researchers with the Cleveland Underwater Explorers are almost certain it is the Argo, said Christopher Gillcrist, executive director of the National Museum of the Great Lakes. The barge’s measurements match Argo’s dimensions as listed in historical records and there are no reports of another tanker barge being lost in the same area, he said.

The Argo’s exact whereabouts have been unknown since waves toppled it during a storm in 1937 in western Lake Erie — about midway between Toledo and Cleveland.

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